By Brandon Miniman | May 4, 2011 12:56 PM
What do you get when you take an HTC HD2, add 4G WiMax connectivity, a front facing camera, and use Android instead of Windows Mobile? You get the HTC EVO 4G! Sprint has raced the EVO 4G to market, giving them the distinction of being the only carrier in America to carry a 4G smartphone. Along with that, the EVO 4G offers many other claims to fame: it can do live video chat, it’s the first Android device to natively support high quality YouTube, it has a kickstand, and it has an HDMI port for outputting video to a projector or larger television. On paper, the EVO 4G is a monster: it’s truly the most powerful and feature-rich Android device to ever see the light of day. But how to does it fare as a daily driver? Read this review before buying an EVO 4G!
Here’s the unboxing for the EVO 4G. Inside the box, HTC and Sprint have cut corners. There is no case, screen protector, or even headphones. Just the device (plus an 8GB microSD card), a charger, and some documentation.
Let’s talk specs. The EVO 4G isn’t too dissimilar to the Nexus One, Droid Incredible, and Desire if you consider the core specs. The device has a Qualcomm QSD8650 Snapdragon CPU clocking in at 1GHz, running on top of Android 2.1 (a Froyo upgrade will be issued in 2010, though you can get it sooner from xda-developers). It has an ample 512MB of RAM, plus 1GB of ROM. It also comes with an 8GB microSD card for storage, although this is expandable up to 32GB. The capacitive display is a traditional backlit LCD and is 4.3″ and WVGA resolution, which is the same as the HD2. The EVO 4G has a ton of wireless radios and components: WiFi, WiMax, CDMA, Bluetooth, FM Radio, GPS (assisted), and even a digital compass. For imaging, there are two camera. The front camera takes photos at 1.3MP and video at VGA resolution, while the rear camera (which has a dual LED flash) takes stills at 8MP and video at 720p. For video out, there is a microHDMI type D connector, and for syncing and charging, we have microUSB. The battery is 1500mAh, though we wish it were double the size. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.
Alternatively, you can also see a spec-to-spec comparison of the EVO 4G with the HTC HD2.
The HTC EVO 4G is a commanding device that gets attention. The front is adorned with a massive 4.3″ display and a thin bezel which really makes the screen pop. The front is a flush piece of glass. The Sprint logo in the upper right corner is larger than the HTC logo.
Before continuing to describe the device, I should mention that the EVO 4G is big. If you’ve held an HD2, you know that despite the device having a huge screen, it still feels manageability small to the point where it still feels like a phone. This is not the case for the EVO 4G. It feels more like a small slate computer than it does a phone. In this photo, you can see the profile of the HD2 (right) compared to the HD2. There’s quite a difference in thickness and in weight.
The four buttons are capacitive, meaning that you cannot feel for them without looking as you can with hardware buttons. When the light sensor detects low light conditions, the buttons illuminate. We have Home, Menu, Back and Search.
Here’s a closer look at the front-facing video camera. If you want to see it in action, be sure you check out our video conferencing demo post. Also up here is an LED notification light, a light sensor, and a proximity sensor.
On the back we can see the rear 8MP camera with the dual LED flash and speaker. More on video and photo quality later. In terms of speakerphone performance, the EVO 4G was above average. Up to about 80% volume, the caller on the other line would come through clearly.
Popping off the back battery cover we reveal the red battery area. Some of this red shows through to the other side, such as around the camera (as seen above), and under the kickstand. By the way…all smartphone should have a kickstand. There’s a ton of utility that can come from being able to prop up your phone on a table top.
Also back here is the slot for the microSD card. You must remove the battery first to access it, and even then, you may want to grab a pair of tweezers. You’ll see in a video below how this looks.
As mentioned, the EVO 4G has an HDMI connector, which is fantastic. Not much is known about how well this works or how good the quality is because the video out dock for this phone hasn’t been released. In theory, you should be able to get any male/male HDMI cable with a microHDMI type D connector on one end and have this work. I’ve ordered one from Amazon and will update this review with my findings on this intriguing feature.
The EVO 4G uses pretty much the same version of the Sense interface than do the HTC Desire and Legend. I have to say that seeing Android Sense on a 4.3″ display is very dramatic. The animations look great and are very smooth, the widgets are beautiful, and the many integrations with the operating system make the interface very immersive. You get seven homescreens (I wish you could change this number up or down) which you can fill up with a variety of widgets, shortcuts, folders, and more. The Scenes feature lets you save preconfigured widget set ups so that you can have one configuration for the weekend, one for work, etc.
The web browser on the EVO 4G is very capable, though not as fast as the browser that comes in Android 2.2 (though the EVO 4G is upgradeable to 2.2). It uses Flash Lite to bring some Flash capability to the browser.
Thanks to the huge display and highly responsive touchscreen, the on-screen keyboard is a breeze to type on. If you’ve used the HTC keyboard on the HD2, you know what I’m talking about.
There’s a lot of extra software that Sprint has added to the EVO 4G like applications for Sprint TV (which is $10 per month), plus a variety of sports applications. In this video we talk about some of those apps, plus show off the gaming prowess of the EVO 4G.
We have a lot of camera samples to show you! First, for a look at video capability, both for the front and rear camera, take a look at our video samples. You’ll notice that the quality of the front camera is better than expected, and the quality on the rear camera is worse than expected. Through the camera application, you can easily toggle between cameras. The front camera is very handy for use when emailing video messages or trying to take a self portrait. If you use Fring, you can use the front camera.
In terms of photo quality, the rear camera is quite impressive. Take a look some sample photos here (outdoor, cloudy), here (outdoor, cloudy), and here (indoor with flash, low light). If you look at the image in full resolution, they appear a bit noisy, but if you reduce the image in size a bit, the clarity is great, and the color isn’t bad either. For a sample photo taken with the front camera, click here (indoor self portrait).
Overall, the EVO 4G is a fast device. While running multiple apps I had no issues with the device getting slower, nor was there much of a delay when launching an application for the first time. I did run into some bugs that caused the device to either shut itself off, or crash an application (like HTC Mail, Contacts, etc). That said, these bugs occured before a software update on June 5, so it’s possible that these issues have been resolved through this update.
Even though I’m rating the performance of the EVO 4G at “great”…I’d like to see it at “excellent.” For a device that is ushering in the next generation of cellular data, I’d expect incredible performance. It’s possible that once Froyo is released for the EVO 4G, we’ll see that increase in device speed that will make things right again.
Call quality and cellular reception was fantastic. I had no dropped calls or problems with hearing the other caller or with them hearing me.
The EVO 4G has a 1500mAh battery, which is clearly not enough to power this monster. It’s odd because the HTC HD2, with a 1300mAh battery, has about 50% better battery life than the EVO 4G. It’s possible that the 4G chip may be sucking up a lot of juice, or perhaps it’s the balancing act that the device must do constantly to select between 3G, 4G, and WiFi.
Anyhow, be sure to have a charger near during the day if you’re buying this phone. I couldn’t get through an entire day with moderate usage. With light use, you’ll get a full day of life out of the EVO, and with heavy use, well, carry a second battery.
DOES 4G MATTER?
We made a video trying to answer the question “Does 4G Matter?” as we see Sprint hyping the benefits of 4G in advertising campaigns for the EVO 4G. My conclusion was that while 4G networks are the future (whether that’s WiMax or LTE), right now, it’s not ready for prime time. The speed aren’t that great, the signal reliability pales in comparison to 3G, and it’s not ubiquious. The 4G on the EVO 4G is a “nice to have” feature, and shouldn’t be a major selling point right now.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
You can buy an EVO 4G with a new two-year contract for $199.99 from Sprint. The Sprint $99 Everything plan is attractive for those that want unlimited data, voice, and SMS. You must also add $10 per month for “premium data”, which, in our estimation, goes to Clear for use of their WiMax network. Just a guess. Beyond that you can pay $29 if you want to use your EVO 4G as a 3G/4G WiFi hotspot.
+ Huge, beautiful screen
+ Solid performance
+ Dual cameras
+ Kickstand has a lot of utility
+ First American smartphone with 4G
+ HDMI output
+ On-screen keyboard is super easy to use
+ Great call quality
- Battery life is poor
- Device is large and heavy
- 4G network is in its infancy, isn’t that much faster than 3G
- Requires $10 extra monthly fee in addition to data charges
- Qik video chat isn’t anything special
As of the publish date of this review, we can comfortably say that the EVO 4G is the best Android phone out there right now IF you don’t mind the bulk and if you don’t mind charging your phone a lot. Don’t buy this phone for the 4G, because right now, it’s not that big of a deal. What is a big deal is the overall feature-richness of this phone, plus the experience it provides the user through the buttery smooth HTC Sense interface. This is truly a phone that can grow with you.
I give the HTC EVO 4G a 4/5.